Our SS21 collection celebrates the ethos of the Magpie Project, an organisation we have been volunteering for and collaborating with since 2019.
Newham-based Magpie Project works with children and mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – 80% of whom have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). These children, like some 100,000 in the UK, live in destitution because their parents immigration status denies them the safety net of our welfare system. In 2017, the Project’s founder Jane Williams first became aware of the plight of these children in her community. She sought help from the local authority. She was told by councillors, service providers and commissioners that they had no duty to look after these vulnerable children because they were not in the right catchment area, they were not entitled to help, they were “not our children.” Jane couldn’t let this stand. She set up the Magpie Project to insist that – no matter what – every child has the right to support: they are all our children.
The collection – aptly titled All Our Children – not only finds its inspiration in the stories and lives of the people we met and worked with there, but also the importance of family spirit in a child’s life. Through the process of designing the collection, we included the families that are part of the Project via drawing workshops and playtime, and teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram to transform the children’s drawings into prints and patterns that became part of the final textiles. “This is a true co-production with the Magpie community and it’s really validating for these women who have previously been disbelieved and unheard, marginalised and ignored to be valued and listened to at the highest level,” explains Jane.
Part of this collection is also a partnership with Somerset House – we collaboratively designed a flag with Melissa, that will be flown proudly on top of the House in honour of All Our Children from September 2020 until January 2021. In addition to the words, the vibrant design of a mother and child on the canvas references the Asafo flags of the Fante people in Ghana that traditionally symbolise warrior-like strength which is in this case assigned to the mothers of Magpie.
Through our continuous work with environmental health in mind, we once again worked with deadstock, organic and recycled materials as well as with manufacturing units as part of social initiatives San Patrignano and Making for Change. Several pieces are patchworked out of deadstock jersey and nylon garments provided by Adidas Originals. For the first time, the collection includes tailoring which adds a new layer to the growing reach of our garments. We also worked with Welsh designer Rosie Evans on two different corset designs for which Rosie created boning out of fruit packaging waste. While we started and continue to be labeled as mainly a menswear label, Bethany Williams aspires to reach as many people as possible. With garments fit on both male and female bodies, the goal is to give more people access to wearing them, Bethany herself included.
Following last season’s research at the V&A Museum of Childhood, SS21 marks the debut of Bethany Williams kidswear. Three looks made as miniature replicas of the adult ones encompass the narrative of the brand’s world being all-inclusive. At the beginning of the design process, we reached out to our community in order to accumulate both visual and verbal personal stories dating back to their early years. These tales became the inspirations for the silhouettes, with some of them being interpreted by Melissa into illustrations that appear hand-printed on the pieces. Building on the idea of familial unity, we worked with ISKO VITAL™+ on creating matching adult and children’s protective face covers in organic materials printed with the collection’s graphics.
As part of our most focused vision yet, we present another newness. Bags, developed with Tottenham-based specialist Stevan Saville, are woven in San Patrignano out of book waste provided by Hachette Children’s and come in two different styles.
The first, a hybrid of a reading wallet and a book with a customisable metal name plaque, comes in three sizes correlated to different publishing formats: mini-dictionary, novel and large encyclopedia. The second style is an updated take on a childhood lunch box – a one-of-a-kind vintage piece wrapped in the colourful woven book fabric. Both styles come with detachable crossbody belts and are 100% vegan products.
Discover our collaboration with Stevan Saville.
Instead of a catwalk show, we worked on visuals with friend and photographer Ruth Ossai. Shot in accordance with the Covid-19 government guidelines in front of Magpie’s Newham offices, the lookbook photographs and film capture five families wearing the garments. The video is soundtracked with a poem specially written for this occasion by playwright and writer Eno Mfon. Powerful, moving and encouraging all of us to own up to our collective responsibility for the next generation, her words verbalise the mission of the collection and Bethany’s work at-large. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”
As with every Bethany Williams collection, 20% of the profits from the collection will go to the charity it was made in collaboration with.
This collection was dedicated to the loving memory of Lisa Hoang and Elie Che.
Creative Direction – Bethany Williams
Director, Photographer & Filmmaker – Ruth Ossai
Photography assistants: Luke Ossai, Ryan Connolly
Film and Editing - Lorraine Khamali
Poet – Eno Mfon
Stylist – Tallulah Harlech
Illustrator– Melissa Kitty Jarram
Casting – Chloe Rosolek
Music Direction – Benji B
MUA – Rebecca Davenport
Knitwear – Alice Morell Evans
Footwear – Adidas and Helen Kirkum
Corsets - Rosie Evans
Bags – Stevan Saville
Text – Dino Bonačić
Communication – The Lobby London
Production – Faye Scott-Maberley
Models - Stephanie, Khalani, King, Mariam, Mohammed, Mesk, Melaz, Kemi, Leo, William, AJ, Akuac Team – Natalie Hodgson, Catriona Macleod, Megan St Clair
Supported by the Adonyeva Foundation
Special Thanks – The Magpie Project, Somerset House Trust, The British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush, Wool and the Gang, ISKO VITAL™+, Orto Print Studio, Molly Evans, Joseph Henry, Eric Williams, Karen Kewley, Natalie Hodgson, Catriona Macleod, Megan St Clair.